Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
|Pieced quilt, c. 1935, Sarah Nixon (b. 1902, NC) made for Elizabeth Draycott Ost, NJ|
The style of the quilt is not what determines
the ethnicity of the maker.
Quilt Historian Cuesta Benberry (1923-2007) devoted much of her research to the subject of African-American quiltmakers. In her book "Always There: An African-American Presence in American Quilts" she shared diverse examples of African-American quiltmaking heritage. Improvisational style was one aspect, but certainly not the whole story.
|Pieced quilt, "Bible Story" by Lucy Mingo, Gee's Bend, Ala. 1979|
|an example of highly refined African-American needlework, c. 1820|
The style of this quilt may not say "African-American" to those who are more familiar with the improvisational style of Gee's Bend. We know the maker, though, and that's an important distinction when discussing African-American quilts. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove it was African-American if we did not know who made it. The same is true with Amish, Pennsylvania German, and Southern quilts. The style of the quilt is not what determines the ethnicity of the maker.
Thanks again to my mother for the gift of this beautiful quilt, the stories about Sarah; and special thanks to Suzanne Antippas for digging up the census records through Ancestry.com. The quilt is very special, and it's wonderful to have more information about its maker, Sarah Nixon.
Monday, December 29, 2014
The pictorial is rendered in a chunky, Pop Art style, and black ties add an element of quirkiness. It is 68" x 90" and is inscribed in the lower left corner, with the date, 1977.
What a wonderful quilt. It's even better in person, a quintessential expression of the 1970s. Such a cheerful object, too. I love it!
Saturday, December 27, 2014
|one of Mom's neighbors has a wonderful and rarely seen kit quilt from the 1930s|
|magazine clipping from Women's Home Companion 1934|
|one page from the instructions|
So, you may ask, how can a quilt be rare if it's from a mass-produced kit? The simple answer is: not many were made. But it's such a charming quilt...why wouldn't everyone want to make their own?
I have a feeling the quilt was designed and marketed to quilters, but the quality and amount of appliqué made it a project for more advanced quilters. There must be a few unused kits somewhere out there in the world, I'm thinking. I have never seen one for sale, and had never seen anything other than a picture of one before today.
Interestingly, the owner found the unfinished pieces of the quilt when she was cleaning out a relative's home, and commissioned a quiltmaker in the 1970s to finish it. Good thinking, I said, because it's all together, and they have enjoyed it.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Sarah worked as a housekeeper for acquaintances of my grandparents in Verona, New Jersey. Some time in the 1930s, she made a quilt for young Elizabeth Draycott Ost, my mother. The quilt is a blue and white Indiana Puzzle, and I have always admired it. According to Mom, Sarah lived on Park Avenue in Verona, New Jersey in the late 30's and 40's, with Mrs Worthum's daughter and her family. Their name was Ryan. Mom could not recall Mr Ryan's name, and wasn't sure if she ever knew it, but his wife was Grace and their daughter Patricia.
Sarah was illiterate but loved to sew. She spent her free time sewing. She made the quilt especially for Mom in her favorite color, blue. Many years later, the quilt would hang in the summer home on Rangeley Lake in Maine each year, and it was the only quilt Mom held on to after selling the house and giving me all the other quilts. I didn't blame her for that. It's special.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the quilt in one of my Christmas packages yesterday, and had to ask Mom if she was sure she wanted me to have it. She was, and I thanked her. Sarah was African-American and absolutely loved making quilts. Mom has such fond memories of this lovely woman who made the quilt. It would probably be a miracle if there was a way to discover more information about Sarah, but miracles do happen! Thank you Mom, and Sarah, for the gorgeous quilt.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
|Helen Ludeke Ost - my "Oma" was an amazing person|
This is her confirmation photo from 1911. She was 14.
|Which letter is missing, and why?|
|In 1911, Oma was 14 years old.|
She graduated from Hoboken Academy in 1913, the year after her father passed away. Mom still has several of the documents from finishing school, including penmanship books, an autograph book and the program from her graduation and closing ceremonies.
|one of several penmanship books|
|one of Oma's many penmanship samples|
|Hoboken Academy 1913 Closing Ceremonies program|
|Considering Oma was a young teenager when this entry was written, the|
autograph book has some very racy moments!
One of the most remarkable things about Oma was when she was an adult, married to Opa. She helped rescue a German immigrant from an insane asylum when the woman had been wrongly committed following the death of her husband. The woman, Anna, could not speak any English at the time, and her children were taken from her, but Oma and Opa fixed it. They employed Anna for the rest of her working days, helped her learn English, and helped her get her own home. Decades later, Anna was really part of the family. Whenever I went to visit, it was like having two grandmothers and a grandfather under the same roof. Oma lived her life with grace, and rescuing Anna was a sure sign of it. I think it's how Oma got her wings.
We love having all these family objects, and today was a good day to pull them out and look at them-- Christmas, a day Oma happened to love, and Throwback Thursday. Of course, 100-plus years ago is more than just a throwback, and Oma has been gone more than a dozen years, but I remember her like she was here just yesterday. So, Merry Christmas, Oma! And thank you for being such a wonderful guardian angel along with Opa, Dad and Anna. Mom, Libby and I wish you were all here in body, but we know you're here in spirit.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
|2014 Pantone Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid, not so radiant next to a real orchid|
Cerulean, the very first Color of the Year in 2000, kicked off the legacy of ineptly named colors. Just take a look at the cerulean pigment (above) next to the swatch. It's more like a dull sky blue, what folks in the antique and vintage textiles might call Cadet Blue. It was a popular color during the Colonial Revival of the early 20th century, but bears little semblance to Cerulean, a "straight-out-of-the-tube" paint color. The 2014 Pantone Color of the Year was called Radiant Orchid (pictured at top). If you look at this color next to a real orchid, Radiant Orchid doesn't seem so radiant.
There have been several discussions about Pantone's Colors of the Year online, but I'm not sure if anyone has really come out and called it what it is. The head-scratching disconnect between the colors and their names is, in my opinion, color blindness. I guess that's why Marsala, Pantone's 2015 Color of the Year, will always remind me of the lipstick on the rim of the glass rather than the wine.
So, what do you think of Pantone's Colors of the Year?
Monday, December 15, 2014
|2014 Portland Modern Quilt Guild Medallion|
|the center block is an appliquéd Dresden Plate|
|the quilt is made of a wonderful selection of soft and bold colors|
|Nancy Stovall did a beautiful job with the long-arm quilting|
|the reverse side of the quilt includes a central column of pieced blocks|
|all of the blocks, front and reverse, are very graphic|
|nice selection of modern fabrics|
|detail of quilting on reverse side|
Saturday, December 13, 2014
|This photo received an award in the 1991 Photo Review National Photography Competition|
The first time I entered an art contest was in 1976. I was 10. It was the "Smile America" Dental Health Week Poster Contest, and I won a ribbon. The thing was, the ribbon was only an Honorable Mention. Not what I had in mind. Trying to wrap my brain around the terrible injustice while concealing my disappointment, the unfiltered reaction was to find fault with the other entries and the judges. You could say it was the first time I was unhappy with judging in an art contest, but I might call it the beginning of a mostly unfulfilling ride on the validation merry-go-round, which ended with an epiphany.
|one of my photos from high school, Peddie School, NJ Chapel during Vespers|
"work from the heart rather than letting
the whole thing get into your head"
One of the highlights was winning one of the top cash awards in a juried show at the Hudson River Museum in New York, for a photo of hanging laundry taken in our neighbor's backyard in New Jersey. The photo was also selected for "American Photography 6", an annual coffee table book published by Rizzoli around the same time. It was one of just a few images to occupy a double-page spread.
|The Johnson's Laundry, Moorestown, NJ, 1984|
Hudson River Museum Open Award for Photography, 1989
|Farview's Gold Dust (Dusty), Moorestown, New Jersey, 1989|
selected for the 1990 Photo Review National Photography Competition
|(far right) "Look at me, I'm a winner!!" (NOT!!)|
How many of my blog readers knew I was a US Masters Swimming National Champion, FINA Masters Swimming World Champion, US Masters Swimming Long Distance All-Star, and the first and only person in the history of US Masters Swimming to compete in all 12 national championship events in the same year? How many of my friends know I won the Newsletter of the Year award? You probably didn't know, because it doesn't matter to me anymore.
Usually I flat-out refuse to talk about any of it, but one of the good things about that experience was it squelched my urge to compete and gave me a completely new perspective about what healthy competition really was. It wasn't what I saw in that arena, nor was it what I saw with juried shows.
In 2008 I retired from swimming competition after competing in 21 national pool championships and more than a dozen long distance championships. The retirement was not the Phelpsian kind, when you come back the next time around to get on the validation-go-round again. I was really done with it, but not knowing what to do with the remnants of a defeated competitive spirit, I entered a few juried photography shows, mostly local, starting around 2009.
"And wouldn't you know, I received an award!" I said, rolling my eyes. It was in a juried show at Lightbox Photographic in Astoria, Oregon and was a second place for a photographic work called Zauberspiegel. So, there I was, riding that other validation-go-round...but it was different this time around. The ride wasn't as fun as it used to be. It wasn't much fun at all. It seemed silly. All I wanted to do was share the work, it didn't need it to be judged against other people's creations, and I certainly didn't need to be singled-out. "How awkward," I thought.
Although I was familiar with the Photo Review contest in the 1990s, I had no idea what had been included since then. Photography had progressed since 1991, hadn't it? I tried to push the envelope, but the judge wasn't having it that day. "Meh, no biggie," I thought.
It was some consolation to appear in a web gallery of favorite also-rans, but the work was better than that in my opinion. The thing was, it just didn't fit in, and I also appreciated that. Most of the photos in the Photo Review National Photography Competition are brutally realistic, hard, and not manipulated. "Aquarium" was far too fanciful and was completely created in Photoshop.
|"House of Wonky" 2012, Viewer's Choice in Sisters, Oregon|
Small Wonders Challenge
I made a little quilt called "House of Wonky". The quilt was about that feeling of having to figure things out from an isolated place. I entered it in the Small Wonders Challenge in Sisters because Mom would be visiting from Maine and I wanted to surprise her. It was open, all entries were accepted, but there were also prizes.
Since my goal was to get a rise out of Mom, there was nothing more at stake. Other people would get the prizes, I thought, and hopefully that would make them happy. My prize was the look on Mom's face when she discovered the quilt. The fact that I also received the blue ribbon for viewer's choice made the whole thing even more hilarious. Mom knew nothing of my quiltmaking activities before that moment. She is almost impossible to surprise, but I got her that time.
|"Wild Eyed Susans" 2013, Honorable Mention, Small Innovative|
Pacific West Quilt Show
It was fun to get in. That, for me, was like winning a big prize. There was also an honorable mention ribbon...memorable...but it was not at all the defining moment of the quilt or my experience with it. Don't get me wrong, I was honored! It's just that juried shows, acceptance and awards really were not what drove me anymore. They were more like funny things that happened along the way.
The epiphany was: work from the heart rather than letting the whole thing get into your head.
|just happy to be there|
Today I do not feel unhappy about that Honorable Mention ribbon from the "Smile America" contest back in 1976. Actually, it's pretty cool, and green is my favorite color. The blue ribbon winner, which I can still picture, really was more deserving, and admitting it didn't cause me to keel over. If you entered QuiltCon, didn't get in, and you're feeling bewildered, unhappy and unfulfilled, I hope my perspective helps. Everything will be OK. Perhaps the experience will even lead to the same epiphany I had. Juried shows aren't the end-all-be-all. You are, because you know how to make quilts. Also, remember to do the work to please you, and don't just say that you are. Really do it. You will always be fulfilled.